Strings of Consciousness Our Moon is Full

[Central Control; 2007]

Styles: electro-acoustic improvisation, collaboration via e-mail
Others: Current 93, The Postal Service, Bracken

Strings of Consciousness is an electro-acoustic collective made up of members from France, Britain, and the U.S., who met each other via the net to put together Our Moon is Full. Thanks to the varied musical pedigrees of its contributors, the album darts in many different directions. The group never establishes a sure identity for itself -- it’s hardly a “band” in the conventional sense -- but the interplay of the musicians here fails to reflect the intuition and sensitivity of skilled improvisation. What results is a record of a few strange juxtapositions that yearn to be innovative but often slip into cliché rock patterns. It’s an occasionally interesting, but largely unconvincing listen.

Brighter moments include “Asphodel,” which links abstract saxophone and guitar to a pastoral techno grid in a jam reminiscent of some of Anticon’s recent rock-based output. Another highlight is “In Between,” a slice of abrasive slowcore surrounded with pristine dollops of vibraphone and dusty acoustic guitar patterns. It’s the most effective combination of voice and instrumentation on a record that often spoils clever production with mundane lyrics and weak vocal performances.

“Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness,” for example, is a curious spoken-word piece accented with pinging ambient effects, lilting sax, and the clang of bright electric guitar chords. Singer Eugene Robinson tells the story of a conflicted hitman loading his gun; the narrative quickly gets desperate and soon collapses underneath tangled storms of guitar fuzz. The song's cut-and-paste editing is highly evident, and this yields some interesting surprises that are underscored by smart mixing. Yet, in trying to accommodate its many members, the group ultimately fails to challenge traditional song structure; it seems like they just collate verses from different songs and then staple them together with vocals. Unfortunately, it’s the vox that undermines both the musical experimentation and emotional impact of their work. The words are hackneyed and delivered in a style that’s both over-the-top and watered-down. Imagine a toothless, confused David Tibet.

Strings of Consciousness may find that their moon is already full, but they’ll need to develop a little more to really bewitch this reviewer.

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